McConnell said “conversations are underway” and “hopefully we can come up with something” to present to Republican and Democratic congressional caucuses.
“We are engaged in discussions, the majority leader and myself and the White House, in hopes that we can come forward as early as Sunday and have a recommendation that I can make to my conference and the majority leader can make to his conference,” McConnell said. “And so we’ll be working hard to try to see if we can get there in the next 24 hours. So I’m hopeful and optimistic."
Boehner reminded those in the meeting that that the House had already “acted to avert the entire fiscal cliff and is awaiting Senate action” and reiterated his position that the Senate must act first, according to spokesman Brendan Buck.
Before Obama and Boehner’s talks broke down, Obama had proposed a plan to raise taxes on annual incomes above $400,000. Boehner countered with a proposal to raise taxes on incomes above $1 million, but could not get his fellow Republicans to support it, let alone Obama.
The House previously had passed legislation to extend all the George W. Bush-era tax cuts that expire Tuesday and prevent $109 billion in automatic spending cuts that will take effect Wednesday. The Senate this summer passed a measure to extend only tax cuts for individuals earning less than $200,000 and families making less than $250,000.
Failure to reach a deadline by the end of the year would mean that $500 billion in tax increases take effect early next year, coupled with $109 billion in spending reductions, the first installment toward $1.2 trillion in cuts over two years. Compounding the problem, Congress learned this week that the government will reach the $16.4 trillion debt limit Monday.
Obama chastised lawmakers for waiting until the last minute to work out a deal, with neither side willing to compromise too early. The stock markets have been falling for a week in apparent anxiety about the fiscal crisis.
“The American people are watching what we do here,” Obama said.
“Obviously, their patience is already thin,” he said. “This is deja vu all over again. America wonders why it is that in this town, for some reason, you can’t get stuff done in an organized timetable; why everything always has to wait until the last minute. Well, we’re now at the last minute.”
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Friday that he was “getting a little more optimistic.”
“Sometimes it’s darkest before the dawn,” he said on NBC. “I am hopeful that there will be a deal that avoids the worst parts of the fiscal cliff; namely, taxes going up on middle-class people. I think there can be. And I think the odds are better than people think that they could be.”
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said the current situation is a “total dereliction of duty at every level.”
“I’ve been very surprised that the president has not laid out a very specific plan to deal with this, but candidly, Congress could have done the same, and I think the American people should be disgusted,” he said on CBS. “Again, a total lack of courage, lack of leadership.”